Last week, Hollywood’s elite packed into the Dolby Theater to honor the man behind some of film’s finest scores. John Williams, who has won numerous Academy Awards, Grammys, Golden Globes, and BAFTAS, added another award to his collection—the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

And what a lifetime of achievements.

His music is the source of anxiety to anyone swimming in the ocean. He is the triumph of Superman as he soars through the sky. He is the wonderment behind seeing dinosaurs once again rule the earth. His five notes helped humans communicate with aliens. His music helps us fly across Neverland, ride our bike across the moon, and crack a whip while wearing a fedora. His theme to a certain space saga is forever in our ears. And our hearts.

He is John Williams, the maestro who is the soul of some of the most beloved films of all time. “E.T,” “Star Wars,” the “Indiana Jones” movies, “Jurassic Park,” . . . the list goes on. And on.

And though he received the award last week, last night was the first opportunity for those of us who aren’t among the Hollywood elite to witness the event. Televised on TNT, the 90 minute special allowed Williams’ closest friends to pay tribute to the composer, the 44th recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award and the only composer to receive such an honor.

Previous winners, including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Harrison Ford attended the event, as well as J.J. Abrams and Drew Barrymore. 

Steven Spielberg said of his friend, “Without John Williams, bikes don’t really fly, nor do brooms in Quidditch matches, nor do men in red capes. There is no Force; dinosaurs do not walk the earth; we do not wonder; we do not weep; we do not believe.”

Harrison Ford, after walking onstage to the "Indiana Jones" theme, quipped, “That damned music follows me everywhere." Sporting a full beard, Richard Kimble-style, he introduced some clips that revealed how "Marion's Theme" isn't introduced in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when we first meet her, but when Indy thinks he has lost her. To paraphrase, the music isn't really about her character but more about Indy's feelings for her. His love for her, his sense of loss at believing she's gone. 

With decades of memorable music behind him, John Williams shows no sign of stopping. Next month his score for Spielberg’s “The BFG” will be released when the film opens in theaters. And future projects appear to include Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” and the next installments in the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” franchises.

With more John Williams music on the horizon, the future looks bright.

Cue the binary sun music.

Fade to black.


(A John Williams DVD and Tribute book are available to anyone interested in becoming an AFI Three-Star member or higher. Photos

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Tags: John Williams , Steven Spielberg , Star Wars , AFI